Q&A: Delaying Social Security benefits

Dear Liz: I get conflicting answers on whether my wife, who turns 62 in April, should take her Social Security now. I am 68 and am holding off taking my benefits until 70. Will her survivor benefits include the 8% annual increase I will receive when I start benefits in September 2024? And should she take her benefits now at age 62 (especially since we both plan to retire this year)?

Answer: Your wife’s survivor benefit would include the delayed retirement credits you’re earning by putting off your application. In other words, if you died tomorrow, her survivor check would be about 20% larger because you waited. (That assumes you turned your full retirement age of 66 in September 2020, and have earned about 2.5 years’ worth of 8% annual increases.)

If you make it to 70, she would receive all four years’ worth of 8% annual increases (plus, of course, all the cost-of-living increases your benefit earned in the meantime).

Because your benefit determines the survivor’s benefit, it’s more important for you to delay than for her to put off her application. Still, she most likely will maximize her lifetime benefit by delaying if she can.

The right strategy depends on the details of your financial situation, so consider consulting a fee-only financial planner for personalized advice.